Letter to Majority Leader Reid on REAL ID Act

02/23/2007

21 February 2007

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Reid,

I am writing on behalf of the members of the Fraternal Order of Police to advise you of our strong opposition to any amendment to S. 4, the “Improving America's Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act,” which would repeal or otherwise negatively impact the implementation of the REAL ID Act.

The Act, which was signed into law in May 2005, establishes standards that States must meet in order for their driver's licenses and identification cards to be accepted as valid by Federal agencies. These requirements include prohibiting the issuance of a driver's license to any individual who cannot prove they are in the United States legally and prohibiting the acceptance of unverifiable foreign identification documents such as the Mexican matricula consular. The legislation authorizes a grant program to assist States in reaching these minimum standards, and would require any State that receives these grants to allow access by other States to their motor vehicle database, which will help to prevent terrorists or other criminals from obtaining multiple driver's licenses from different States. The bill also amends the Federal criminal code to prohibit trafficking in actual as well as false authentication features for use in false identification documents.

This legislation does not infringe on the privacy rights of any U.S. citizen, nor is it a “national identification card,” nor does it create a national database of drivers' licenses. In fact, the model used by the REAL ID Act already exists for commercial drivers' licenses (CDLs). It is a common sense system that takes the right approach to ensuring the security and authenticity of the most commonly used identity document in the United States—drivers' license.

For the FOP, this is very much an officer safety issue. Law enforcement officers need to have confidence that the documents presented to them to establish the identity of a given individual are accurate. Officers rely on these documents during traffic stops and other law enforcement actions to access information related to that individual's criminal history. No police officer wants to be in the dark about the fact that he may have detained a wanted and violent criminal who has simply obtained false identification. This places both the officer and the public he is sworn to protect in greater danger. For this reason, the FOP will strongly oppose any bill or amendment that would repeal the REAL ID Act.

The FOP is also very concerned about legislation or potential amendments which would further delay the implementation of the REAL ID Act. While the FOP is frustrated that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not yet issued implementing regulations, many States are already well on their way to complying with the Act. Further, the DHS Secretary already has the authority to grant extensions to States which provide a reasonable justification as to why they cannot comply by the statutory deadline.

Further, the FOP is also opposed to the creation of a “negotiated rulemaking committee” to review specific factors when the DHS implementation regulations are released for public comment. We do not believe that Congress should require the formation of a special interest committee to review the regulations. Any and all parties are able to comment on the proposed rules during the public comment period. The States have an obligation and the right to identify their residents and their representatives, along with stakeholder groups like the FOP, have been meeting with DHS officials to provide ongoing feedback to the Department. We see no compelling reason why certain groups and not others should be selected and then compelled to review proposed rules based on certain factors.

The FOP supports the passage of S. 4, but we will be unable to maintain that support if the Senate adopts amendments which would repeal, or otherwise substantially weaken the REAL ID Act, which we believe will help to ensure that State-issued drivers' licenses can be counted on by the cop on the beat to identify accurately anyone with whom they may come into contact.

I want to thank you for your consideration of the views of the more than 325,000 members of the FOP on this very important issue. If I can be of any further help, please do not hesitate to contact me or Executive Director Jim Pasco in my Washington office.

Sincerely,

Chuck Canterbury
National President

cc: The Honorable Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader, U.S. Senate
The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman, Chairman, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
The Honorable Susan M. Collins, Ranking Member, Chairman, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs